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Wet Fly Swing Fly Fishing Podcast

Feb 23, 2024

Show Notes: 

Presented by: Northern Rockies Adventures, Angler's Coffee, Drifthook Fly Fishing, Togens Fly Shop


Ryan Johnston, the visionary behind Cast Hope, unveils the transformative impact of his program on the lives of youth facing adversity. Not only will Ryan share heartwarming stories of change and growth, but he'll also reveal expert strategies for steelhead fishing. Learn how to navigate the challenges of the fish barrel roll, master the timing for jumping fish, and handle the thrill of a running fish.

This episode is packed with insights that promise to enhance your fishing skills and inspire you to make a difference. Don't miss out on this captivating journey with Ryan Johnston—tune in now to elevate your fishing game and discover how you can contribute to a meaningful cause this season.

Episode Chapters with Ryan Johnston on Cast Hope

7:00 - Ryan shares the inspiring journey of Cast Hope, born from a desire to use his gifts for the betterment of his community, sparked by a sermon he couldn't shake. Starting with a simple idea to donate guided fishing trips to kids facing tough times, Cast Hope blossomed into a nonprofit that now spans four regions, serving over 700 kids.

16:38 - Their vision is to cover 10 to 12 regions across the country to impact as many kids as they can. He encourages people to donate through their website at

18:08 - He recounts an inspiring story from their specialized trip, the Heritage Trout Challenge, where older kids go on a journey across California to catch specific native trout species. A particularly moving moment involved a teenager named Obie, who, during a trip to catch coastal cutthroat trout, experienced the ocean for the first time. Despite living just two and a half hours away, Obie had never seen the ocean before, highlighting the transformative power of these experiences in opening new worlds for these children.

21:57 - He shares more heartwarming stories of transformation and connection through the medium of fishing. Ryan highlights the powerful narratives featured on their website, notably mentioning Jordy and Christina, two individuals whose lives were significantly altered by their engagement with Cast Hope.

36:58 - Ryan categorizes California's steelhead scene into three distinct groups, each offering unique experiences for anglers, which are valley steelhead, mountain steelhead, and coastal steelhead.

37:48 - He reminisces about the early 2000s, a time when the coastal steelhead scene was largely uncharted territory for fly fishers. Back then, anglers like Ryan could explore and fish in relative solitude, discovering new spots and techniques without the crowds seen today.

40:58 - He shares insights into the effective technique of side drifting from a boat, a method that allows for extended drifts and optimizes the time flies spend in the prime fishing zone. This approach, Ryan explains, is especially effective in rivers like the Eel, where runs can be a hundred yards long, allowing for a drift that keeps the flies in the 'zone' for an extended period.

42:38 - He delves into the intricacies of avoiding spooking the fish, the importance of water clarity, and how to execute a proper hook set for coastal steelhead, which are known for their size and strength.

47:08 - We get into the nitty-gritty of steelhead fishing tactics with Ryan, focusing on the leader setup for effective drifting techniques. He also delves into the strategy of locating steelhead, emphasizing the importance of mobility and observation. The approach is to fish quickly, moving on if a spot doesn't yield results after a few attempts, but to slow down and fish methodically upon hooking a fish.

51:45 - Ryan highlights the significance of upsizing micro spawn flies for better visibility and effectiveness in catching larger steelheads, with shrimp pink and steelhead orange being his go-to colors.

53:15 - Further, Ryan debunks common myths surrounding fly patterns for steelhead, emphasizing that the color and size of the egg pattern often outweigh the specific design of the fly.

54:45 - He takes us through his remarkable experiences fishing in Oregon, particularly on the Nestucca River, comparing it with his time on California's waters.

59:46 - He shares the unexpected success of his first book, "A Reel Job: Short Stories & Thoughts from the River". Released in 2022, he initially wrote the book for himself, with modest hopes of selling enough copies to cover his expenses. To his surprise, the book resonated widely, garnering praise from readers across the globe and selling over 2000 copies.

Encouraged by the positive feedback and continuous requests for more, he has penned a sequel titled "Reelly?! - Unbelievable Fishing Stories & Guide Thoughts," set to launch in March. This upcoming book, featuring a cover designed by Derek Deyoung and his wife, promises another engaging collection of guide stories and extraordinary experiences from Ryan's 21 years on the water.

1:02:23 - Currently, he guides for Bigfork Anglers. They specialize in fishing the Flathead River in the valley and then the lower Clark Fork.

1:02:53 - He shares his preference for the type of boat he uses for steelhead fishing in California. He has been a longtime advocate for Hyde Drift Boats, particularly highlighting his transition to a Hyde skiff about six years ago. This lower profile, lighter boat offers significant advantages on the water, particularly in terms of maneuverability and reduced physical strain.

1:04:17 - He shares his transition from suburban life in Chico, California, to a more spacious and serene existence in Somers, Montana, near Flathead Lake. Moving to Montana has been a significant change for his family, offering them an incredible sense of space and freedom.

Show Notes: